Originally created 04/08/06

He lived the American dream



If you want to know what living the American dream is all about, then look at the life of J.B. Fuqua, who died in Atlanta on Wednesday at age 87 of complications from bronchitis.

The son of a Virginia tobacco farmer, Mr. Fuqua never went to college, but even as a teenager he was fascinated with business and finance, about which he was a voracious reader. This eventually led him to become one of the nation's most successful and wealthiest entrepreneurs - and it all started when he moved to Augusta in 1939 to open WGAC, the city's second radio station.

In 1953 he opened Augusta's first television station, WJBF, from which he made his first million dollars - and, after moving to Atlanta some years later, parlayed that into a multibillion dollar empire, Fuqua Industries.

But business was by no means his only success. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Mr. Fuqua was elected three times to the Georgia Legislature - twice to the House and once to the Senate. He also served as chairman of the state's Democratic Party in the mid-1960s, and later became a friend of presidents.

Decades before Fort Gordon was saved in 2005 by the efforts of the Alliance to Save Fort Gordon, Mr. Fuqua and former Gov. Carl Sanders prevented the fort from being moved to New Jersey after making a personal plea to President John F. Kennedy.

Successful in business and politics, Mr. Fuqua was even better known as a philanthropist. His generosity was legendary - he gave away tens of millions of dollars to scores of good causes. He was a particular benefactor of North Carolina's Duke University, donating $24 million to the institution that named its business school after him.

Mr. Fuqua has not been forgotten in Augusta, either. Everyone who knew him or worked for him has nothing but fond memories and kind words. One is Augusta Human Relations Director Frank Thomas, who was the first African-American newsman to work at an Augusta television station - hired, of course, by J.B. Fuqua.

Mr. Fuqua lived the American dream - working hard to earn riches and fame in a long, productive, fruitful life filled with kindness, charity and gratefulness to God for the opportunities. He will be missed by all of us, but especially by his family and friends. We join in their mourning.